New Canaan Robots!
Published 5:38 pm, Wednesday, February 16, 2011
The machines are taking over New Canaan; starting with the Technology Student Association (TSA) at the high school. But do not be afraid. These are docile, mostly remote-controlled robots interested in picking up large plastic rings and placing them on a goal for sport. So while there is no fear of Matrix-like world domination by these machines, they are still pretty cool.
"It's primary aim is to gets kids interested in technology education and the areas within that, which is pretty much anything," Zambarano said. "As far as the robots go, we started seven years ago with the Best Robotics Competition at Central Connecticut State University."
Now if you are picturing those crazy robot battles on television where they destroy each other with blades and weapons, think again. These robots do not battle each other, but they do compete. Since 2008, New Canaan has been involved with the Vex Robotics Competition. Every year, they have a few scrimmages at various schools in the state before the State Championship at CCSU. This year's scrimmage at New Canaan had to be cancelled due to snow but the next one is slated for Feb. 24 in Manchester, Conn. followed by the State Championship on April 3 at CCSU.
"We are very excited for that," Bryan James, a junior in the program, said about the championship.
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Both James as well as Will Nemiroff, another junior, have been heavily involved with the robotics competition.
"We both have obsessed with LEGOs and building things since we were kids," James said. "Now to actually build and control something like this is great, not to mention the competition."
The competition itself works kind of like slowed down version of soccer, basketball mixed with horseshoes and robots of course. Each school generally has just one or two robots. New Canaan has one robot this year focused on the ring challenge. After the robots are placed on the field they have two minutes and 20 seconds to place as many rings as possible onto the goal. Each colored ring represents a certain amount of points and the ring placed at the highest point on the goal is worth the most. The tricky part is that the first 20 seconds of the game is under autonomous control. That means the students have to program the robot to pick up the rings and place them on the goal and hope it works out. After that, the final two minutes are under radio control, allowing the students to move the robots via remote control.
However, before the games begin, the robots need to be examined to make sure they adhere to safety guidelines as well as other criteria. Students are only allowed to use parts from the starter kit. No foreign items besides rubber bands and other smaller things can be added to the robot. Zamabarno noted that one year they had added some parts from other sources unaware of the regulations and were forced to change the robot on the spot.
"That turned out to be really great actually," Zambarano said. "It taught our students to think, react and problem solve on the fly."
In addition to points on the competition, the robots are judged in other areas as well including research, design, and display all included in a portfolio for the judges. In 2008, New Canaan placed first place in computer aided drafting, second place in web design and third place for their oral presentation. James, Nemiroff and other students have been working diligently to make sure they are ready for states later this year.
"It's just really cool and a lot of fun," Nemiroff said. "But we do hope to win."
Look out FCIAC, the robotics competition might give you a run for your money.